(Int: daylight. Zoom in on woman and dog on their return from the park)
Me: (putting bowl on island by the fridge) Puppy, what do you want Mommy to make you for your savory melange tonight?
Orion: (sits at attention)
Me: (opening fridge) How about some green beans, sweet potato, and chicken?
Orion: (cocks head at “chicken”)
Me: Ok. (mixes in his bowl, then takes it to the feeding station with Orion following) Orion, can you give Mommy a sit?
Me: Good boy! (places bowl on mat; Orion devours contents, burps, and finds a spot for a nap)
We played out this scene daily for the last three years of his earthly life. Before that, I’d been feeding him was was touted as high-quality kibbles, only to deal with frequent spells of GI issues and allergies. After several days of bloody diarrhea and vomiting, a visit to the vet that cost $140 to be told that he was “old and eats stuff in the yard,” I took him home, and fed him white rice for a few days until he was stable. Then I added gradually increasing amounts of chicken and turkey, and veggies with some banana thrown in as well.
It’s that simple. I had hints on refining it from his acupressure therapist and the owner of the store where I bought high-quality canned food for backup. But the rest of the time, Orion ate what we did. No chocolate, onions, walnuts, macadamia nuts, or grapes, but pretty much everything else.
He regained the weight he’d lost, returning to his healthy weight of 50 pounds, acceptable for a big-boned American Brittany. Up until the last week before he crossed the Rainbow Bridge due to lymphoma, he had the energy level of a much younger dog despite his heart murmur, walking for at least two hours a day.
My grandmother fed her dogs home cooked food, too. They were the kind that put the “mixed” in “mixed breed,” and with all that love and good meals, they lived to be outrageous old ages. All it takes is some meat, some veggies, and a few carbs to make a dog healthy and happy.
We collectively forgot that with the advent of processed food. Corn, an allergen and intolerance for the vast majority of dogs, is used as a filler simply because it’s cheap. Most of the ingredients in many of the commercial foods are used for the same reason. It may be convenient to simply pour kibble into a bowl and let the dog free feed, but at what cost in the long run?
For me, a lot of pet stain remover, many sleepless nights, and useless vet visits. Rest assured that I changed vets soon after that last visit. And let’s not forget the guilt tapes that kick in at 3:30 AM when I can’t sleep: I wish I hadn’t let myself get brainwashed about pet food. Why didn’t I notice that the grassy scent on his toes indicated a grain allergy? What if I had switched vets sooner?
And then Oakley wakes up a little and gives himself a shake, making his tags jingle. He turns around, lies back down with a contented sigh bourn of a tummy full of sweet potato and turkey, then starts to snore a lullaby to lead me back to sleep.